SNP civil war a step closer as leadership contenders demand access to membership data

Party's CEO, who is husband of outgoing leader Nicola Sturgeon, accused of lack of transparency over election vote

Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, centre, and former minister Ash Regan have called for greater transparency over voting figures. Getty
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The Scottish National Party has become engulfed in another major row after three leadership candidates called on the party to release their current membership figures, amid accusations that the number was being kept secret.

The party, which seeks to establish Scotland as an independent nation, is currently staging an election to replace Nicola Sturgeon, who announced her intention to step down as First Minister and party leader earlier this year.

The three candidates vying to succeed her - Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan - have all said the party must release details of how many people are eligible to vote in the contest which has not been revealed up until now.

Members who have been tasked with electing are having the choice of voting electronically or on paper.

Reports at the weekend suggested that 78,000 online forms were being sent out, though the party has not commented on the figure. The exact size of the electorate remains unclear.

The candidates have been told that the number of votes, percentage share, and turnout will be published when the result is declared on March 27.

The lack of transparency has threatened to further damage the party which has been hit by infighting between factions.

Ms Regan said she has written to SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, who is Ms Sturgeon's husband, on behalf of Ms Forbes and her own campaigns.

She requested the total number of paid-up SNP members and how many digital and paper ballots have been sent out.

Ms Regan’s letter said: “We have previously reached out to the national secretary, Lorna Finn, with a request for this information.

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“However, we have yet to receive a response, which has prompted us to address this matter through a formal open letter.

“As the chief executive of the SNP, it is your responsibility to ensure that the leadership election process is transparent, fair, and equitable.

“Providing this information is crucial to fostering trust and confidence among the candidates, their campaign teams, and the party members who are participating in the election.”

A spokesman for Ms Forbes said: “It is standard practice for any election to be made aware of voting numbers in advance. This should be no different.”

Neil Gray, who is Mr Yousaf’s campaign manager as well as being a Scottish Government minister, said: “Yesterday, Humza’s campaign team also asked for the figures to be published and sought assurances this would be done as soon as possible.”

Figures from the Electoral Commission show that in December 2021, the SNP had around 104,000 members.

An SNP spokesman said: “Candidates have already been made aware that responsibility for the leadership election does not rest with any member of staff.”

Updated: March 16, 2023, 9:52 AM